updated 05:00 pm EDT, Wed August 9, 2006
In-depth look at Leopard
Apple announced ten Mac OS X Leopard features earlier this week during the company's keynote address that kicked off the World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco. While several of Leopard's "big secrets" are still under wraps to prevent Microsoft from "starting its photocopiers" too early, the company did promise 64-bit processing, new core technologies, an enhanced version of iChat and Mail, and more. Mac OS X Leopard is slated for shipment in the spring of 2007, just after Microsoft's scheduled launch of its Windows Vista operating system. [images]
Mac OS X Leopard will implement full 64-bit native support for the underlying OS as well as Cocoa and Carbon. Leopard will also support 32-bit applications natively alongside 64-bit applications without emulation. Leopard will integrate the new inclusion, dubbed "Top to Bottom" 64-bit support, on all levels.
Time Machine offers easy backups
The Cupertino-based company released Time Machine, a simple and automatic backup utility to ship with Mac OS X Leopard. According to an Apple survey, 26 percent of users back up their files, with just 2 percent of those using automated backup solutions. Apple is striving to make automatic back up available to all users in the next version of Mac OS X with Time Machine. The new application will dynamically back up every file on a user's computer to an external server or storage device while offering the ability to restore the files as groups or individually.
Time Machine features an animated and intuitive interface that brings what was a complex task to a new level of simplicity, according to Apple. Leopard will allow users to visually navigate back through 'time' to select, preview, and restore files. Users can navigate to a folder in the Finder and browse it with Time Machine through regular time intervals, or jump back to locate missing or accidentally replaced files. The application also allows users to 'go back in time' to retrieve addresses, photos, or other supported missing items through any application with Time Machine integration.
Boot Camp, Photo Booth, Front Row, and more
Apple's Boot Camp software -- which allows users to boot into Mac OS X or another operating system such as Microsoft Windows -- has seen a half million downloads since its recent introduction. Apple declared that Boot Camp will indeed come bundled with Leopard when it ships early next year.
Mac OS X Leopard will also include the Photo Booth and Front Row applications, allowing users to snap personal pictures or turn a Mac into a digital entertainment center. Photo Booth and Front Row are the first of many applications that will make up the 'complete package' of Mac OS X Leopard, according to Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
Leopard will feature Spaces -- a new desktop manager allowing users to jump between up to four 'desktops' simultaneously. With a simple keystroke users can rotate or snap to a desktop, and can to click on the Dock icon of an application running within another desktop to snap to that desktop. Apple revealed Spaces on its website as customizable; allowing users to set a custom number of rows or columns of desktops.
The latest iteration of Mac OS X will feature an enhanced version of Spotlight -- Apple's advanced search technology that offers on-the-fly searches. Although the new version was not demonstrated, Apple said the new Spotlight can search another Mac or Servers over the network while offering more advanced search options, such as a new application launcher and recent item integration. Spotlight presents recent items as a categorical system allowing users to see recently opened images, documents, and other such files.
Core Animation will be the latest Core technology added to Mac OS X, aiming to simplify animation for developers by allowing them to make applications more visually rich with less effort. Core Animation features layers, text, images, video, and OpenGL support. Users can create effects by providing a starting and ending point (with optional keyframes) for an object. Core Animation uses those points to create the desired effect.
Apple demonstrated an example program to stress the power of Core Animation, a screen saver called "iTunes Artwork" which was 4,000 lines of code when developed in Mac OS X Tiger. Using Core Animation, the same effects with were achieved in only 400 lines of code using Core Animation. The new Core Animation version of the screensaver was still under half the number of lines of code when developers included interactivity and the live rendered iTunes city, which the Tiger screensaver lacked.
Improved universal access
The company's new version Voice Over text-to-speech capabilities feature human-like speech technology. Compared to the current Mac OS X voice or the voice found in the latest beta of Windows Vista, the Leopard voice was clearer and sustained quality better when played at faster rates. Apple says it is committed to improving Universal Access in Mac OS X 10.5 included the new advanced VoiceOver, Braille support, closed captioning in QuickTime, and faster navigation.
Enhanced Mail features
Leopard will include an improved version of Mail offering Stationery, Notes, and To Do's. Apple describes Stationery as a tool that supports pre-made HTML templates with drag-and-drop functionality for users to include media content with Apple designed style to any inbox. Stationery users can apply these templates to any email with a single mouse click, according to Apple.
Notes allow users to send messages back to their own inboxes by selecting a portion of an email (or other documents) to create a reminder note. Notes are emailed to users and placed in a special "Notes" inbox, but also appear in the main inbox as a reminder.
Dynamic To Do Lists allow users to designate part of an email as a To Do item with a contextual menu or button. To Do's feature due dates, alarms, priorities, and calendars. Apple does not limit To Do's to Mail, however, as they carry over to any supporting application which can mark the item as completed, modified, and more.
Apple also plans to include a consumer oriented widget creation tool -- Web Clip -- which allows users to clip any part of any Web page to effectively create a widget. The software supports simple themes as well as rich Web content such as movies and more, offering virtually mini browsers displaying live Web content.
A new iChat
Leopard will also include an improved version of iChat. The updated iChat features multiple logins, an invisibility mode, animated buddy icons, video recording capability, and tabbed chats. Apple is adding improved video conferencing features with Photo Booth effects, media sharing, and backdrops -- photo and movie backgrounds in bluescreen-like effects with no bluescreen. Apple also revealed plans to include screen sharing in the Leopard version of iChat.
Industry observers are speculating whether Apple plans to demonstrate more Leopard features at Apple Expo next month in Paris (September 14-16th) or at Mac World San Francisco 2007 early next year.